Summer flights already on sale | VailDaily.com

Summer flights already on sale

Veronica Whitney

Tickets for summer flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to Eagle County and back are already on sale. County officials say they hope more planes will land at the aiport this summer.

Although winter hasn’t even started, travelers can already buy tickets to fly nonstop next summer between Dallas and Eagle County airport.

American Airlines has again agreed to fly a Boeing 757 from Dallas to Eagle County Regional Airport – between June 17 and Sept. 12 – with connecting cities to be determined, said Kent Myers, the local organizer of the summer-flight program.

“Having the flights loaded and available before the Christmas holiday really helps with the marketing,” said Myers, who was hired last year to develop the airport’s first summer-flight program. “The idea is that the community and hotels have the flight schedules available and hand them to guests this winter.”

Having the schedules available gives the county “a big head start over last year,” said Eagle County Administrator Jack Ingstad. The marketing campaign for last years’ program started late in the spring. Last summer’s program ran with the planes 79 percent full.

“We’ll be able to market the program and plan events in advance,” Ingstad said.

Despite having to pay $20,000 in guarantee money to American Airlines, Eagle County made money when the program debuted this year. The FlyVail summer program made more than $180,000, Myers said. Eagle County and several local businesses and governments came up with a $475,000 guarantee for the service, requested by American Airlines.

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Businesses that pledged money to the summer flight program won’t have to come up with the dollars they committed.

The county had guaranteed the first $150,000 of the guarantee for seats unsold.

“The booking curve is shorter now, but having the flights already loaded gives us the opportunity to introduce the flights to the Christmas crowd,” Myers said. “We’re close to launching the new marketing campaign. And we will be updating the summer-flight Web site as we add more flights.”

This summer, there will be 188 seats on inbound planes and 147 outbound.

“We will grow the program from here,” Myers said. “Maybe we’ll add more flights with American and we’re still in negotiations with other airlines.”

Eagle County officials have said they’re interested in expanding the summer flight program.

“Our payment last summer was insignificant for all the money it brought to the community,” Ingstad said. “We feel confident for next summer. We would consider expanding the program – that’s why we hired Myers again this year.”

American Airlines also has agreed to reduce the guarantee cap to $200,000.

Myers said he already has commitments from local businesses and organizations for $450,000.

“We will use the extra money to expand the program,” he said.

Local businesses and organizations that have commit to the Fly Vail Summer funding for 2004 include: Beaver Creek Resort Company; Beaver Creek Resort Merchants; Dollar Car A Rental; Eagle County; East West Partners; Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa; Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch; Slifer, Smith and Frampton Real Estate; Sonnenalp Resort of Vail; The Resort Company; towns of Avon, Gypsum and Vail; Vail Cascade Resort and Spa; Vail Resorts; Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau; and the Vail Valley Jet Center.

“This program is a winner,” Ingstad said. “It is important that the community continues to market the summer-flight program.”

According to official numbers from the airport, this summer the airport made $130,000 more than the summer of 2002.

“Reservations for the winter are running at about 10 percent above from last year,” Ingstad said. “This is a good indicator for the ski season.”

At a glance

Fly Vail Summer 2004 facts:

Tickets on American Airlines summer flights to Vail are available. The Boeing 757 nonstop service from Dallas to Eagle County Regional Airport starts June 17 and ends Sept. 12.

Schedule as of Dec. 17:

– Flight # 2495 Departs DFW Dallas/Fort Worth 3:45 p.m. arrives Eagle/Vail 4:54 p.m.

– Flight # 2496 Departs Eagle/Vail 7:58 a.m. arrives DFW Dallas/Fort Worth 11:11 a.m.

On the web: http://www.flyvailsummer.com.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.